Category Archives: fruit

As American as.. (Cardamom, Ginger & Saffron flavored) Apple Pie!

As much as I look forward to the finished product, Pies are something I never seem to get around to trying. Its always been the fear of the pie crust, what if its too soggy, too lumpy..and until last week, these niggling doubts have always sent me packing to the supermarket freezer aisle in search of a great frozen pie crust that did not involve lard.

Turns out, it was Food52 to the rescue again. I came across this ultra simple recipe for pie crust . So unbelievably simple, I kept pinching myself as to the usual, what? how? and ‘no way’ threads of pleasant surprise that were swimming through my head while I cut up the apples for this years Thanksgiving dessert. The inspiration for the filling was a trip to Terhune Orchards in Princeton  to pick up some fabulous organic apples and the consequent reminder of the fabulous Kashmiri Chai style mulled apple cider I had cobbled up.

Cardamom, Ginger Saffron flavored Apple pie
For the pie crust: (From Food52.com)

1 cup (2 sticks or 1/2 lb ) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8-10 tablespoons ice water

Combine the butter, flour and salt in the food processor, and pulse lightly until the mixture appears to resemble bread crumbs . Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing a couple times after each tablespoon. Continue adding water by the teaspoon until the mixture just comes together into a ball of dough. Transfer into a large mixing bowl and gently massage into a ball. Split the dough in half and place each into a re-sealable plastic bag, pat each into a disk. Let the dough sit in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble the pie.

Spice blend
1 2 inch piece cinnamon
5-6 cardamom pods, just the seeds
6-7 cloves

Pulverize the spices in a coffee grinder to a fine powder. Using a tea strainer, sift the blend to remove the gritty bits. Measure out required amount.

For the filling
2 apples each of Granny Smith and Jonathan varieties, peeled, quartered and sliced.
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
12 – 15 strands of saffron, crushed.
1 teaspoon spice blend .

Combine the apples, crystallized ginger, almonds, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, saffron and the spice blend in a large mixing bowl and  gently toss to coat the fruit evenly.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Remove one of the discs of dough from the refrigerator onto a floured surface and roll out into a 10 inch circle. Carefully place the  dough onto a buttered pie dish and gently press down the sides. Spoon out the filling into the dough evenly.

Roll out the other  half of the dough and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter. Gently place the shapes over the pie filling to cover the surface of the pie. (& yes, Finn McMissile & Lightning McQueen are perfectly legal!)

Place the pie dish over a large baking sheet covered with Aluminum foil. This ensures that the liquids from the filling do not ooze onto the oven rack and below. Bake the pie in the oven for about 40 – 50 minutes until the crust turns a golden brown and the filling is bubbling.


Remove from oven and allow to cool. Serve warm alongside whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Bon Appetit!

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Wedding Traditions and an Ice cream recipe

If you’re a South Indian ‘Tambram’ (Tamil Brahmin) who went through the traditional ‘whole nine yards’ , wedding ceremony to literally ‘tie the knot’, you would probably remember the ‘oonjal’ ceremony. Its a beautiful social part of the whole 3 day event (yes, the ceremonies span 3 days!). where the bride & groom are seated on a double swing (decorated to the hilt with fragrant garlands)  & are revered as Lord Vishnu & Lakshmi. They get their feet washed (albeit, just ceremonially, with a fingertip’s worth of milk) and are fed a mix of milk  with bananas (‘Paalum Pazham’) by the spoonful, by all the older married female relatives. and this is where the interesting innovative hacks begin to fall into place.

Thats my left palm with a wad of tissue!

It does not matter how much one prepares for the ‘paalum pazham’ session. The box of tissues wedged in between the couple will invariably be knocked over by the 1/2 a dozen well meaning children that are strategically placed hitching a ride on the swing, (with beaming non verbal hints from the trove of elder ‘maamies’ (older married women, collectively referred to as maamies or aunts). The said box of tissues will  then be kicked out of reach in the jostling. To cut a long story short, unless you want to clean your sticky palms on your soon-to-be other half’s ‘angavastram’ (a silk shawl that partially covers the upper half of the body), inviting a buzz of giggles mixed with disapproval from the maami crowd, or even worse, use the pallu of your gorgeous & expensive Kanjeevaram, you’re stuck with sticky palms.

Hacks for overcoming this sticky  situation include
a.  Having a thoughtful cousin stand next to you with a hand towel, which gets sticky & practically unusable after the third round.
b. Using tiny silver cups to receive the paal pazham blessing, which means that you’ll have to literally drop it down your hatch (sipping is a big NO NO for ceremonial purposes).
 & c. resign yourself to the situation..

Which brings me to this weeks recipe, inspired by Food52’s genius recipe and an article from The Kitchn. I believe the idea and the concept originated from none other than Nathan Myhrvold, the guy who cooks with all that fnacy space age equipment, but for once you do not need anything more advanced than a regular food processor.
I opted to add cardamom, saffron & crystallized ginger to the bananas simply to give an interesting contrast in taste, a delicious add-on to the single note banana flavor.

Now if only the maamies would spoon dollops of this decadent frozen paal pazham to future bridal couples.. AAH that would be a true Panfusine moment!

Paal Pazham Ice cream: 
(recipe inspired by and adapted from The Kitchn & Food52)


You need: (makes 4-5 servings)

4 – 6 well ripened ‘spotty’ bananas
2 oz. heavy cream (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed cardamom
12-15 strands saffron
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Peel and cut the banana into 1/2 inch slices. Toss gently with the lime juice (to retain color) . Layer on  a tray (or simply toss into a mixing bowl) and place in freezer for about one hour. (these can be frozen indefinitely, just thaw them for 10 -15 minutes when you’re ready to make the ice cream.

 Add the bananas into the  food processor along with the crystallized ginger, cardamom and the saffron. Start running the machine.

 The mix will initially look crumbly like ‘dipping dots’. At this point add the optional heavy  cream (the cream simply fulfills the requirement of the dish being a ‘paal pazham’ version), with the machine running. within 30 seconds you should see the mix congeal into a creamy mass  as you see below.

Scooping up a bit, you’ll be able to feel how silky smooth and creamy it really is!

 Scoop up the ice cream straight from the food processor into bowls and serve immediately.

Freeze the left overs and simply drop it into the food  processor again  to reconstitute the ice cream all over again!

Celebrate these last days of glorious summer.. Bon Appetit!